Environment minister Jairam Ramesh on Monday rubbished the quality of research at the government’s own Indian Institutes of Technology and the Indian Institutes of Management, setting off muted protests from the premier institutions.
But independent analysis by researchers of the quality and quantity of research at the IITs, IIMs and other top Indian institutions suggests that while they may be improving, they indeed remain behind China and the developed world.
“There is hardly any worthwhile research from our IITs. The faculty in the IIT is not world class. It is the students in IITs who are world class,” Ramesh, an IIT Bombay alumnus, said on the sidelines of a function today. “The IITs and IIMs are excellent because of the quality of students not because of quality of research or faculty,” he repeated.
Many IIT and IIM directors rejected Ramesh’s assertion, though they were unwilling to speak publicly against the minister. “His claim is not just untrue but is unnecessary. The task of the government and its ministers should be to encourage scientists and researchers, not discourage them like this,” an IIT Director said. “I wonder what the basis for his claim is,” an IIM Director questioned.
But independent researchers have found that while these are indeed the country’s top schools, their research lags behind global standards. While questions have in recent years been raised about the quality of some of China’s research too, the quantity of its research covers up for some substandard quality.
The five oldest IITs have the highest average citations for published research papers after the Indian Institute of Science, among Indian science and technology institutions, according to analysis by researchers Gangan Prathap and BM Gupta in 2009.
But all the IITs together produce about a 1,000 PhDs a year, as compared with 7,000 at top Chinese institutions, according to the government’s own blueprint for the future of the IITs, prepared by a team under nuclear scientist Anil Kakodkar. The IIMs are once again at the top of the pile among Indian B-schools in terms of research output. But their contribution is so small in global terms that India ranks 15 in total social science research output.
Each IIT faculty member on an average publishes 1 research paper a year,as compared with 6 per faculty member at MIT
Number of PhDs produced by IITs a year is about 1/7th of top Chinese institutions
Like the IITs, IIMs to at top of research in their field in India. But total papers published in business, management and accounting between 1996-2007 was 5,590 in India, as opposed to 15,404 in China.